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HK blamed for most air pollution

Study contradicts government findings on regional emissions

Emissions in Hong Kong cause most of the city's air pollution, a study has found, contradicting government claims that regional sources are mainly to blame.

The research by the University of Science and Technology and the think-tank Civic Exchange found that the city's emissions were the main factor in determining Hong Kong's air quality on 53 per cent of the 324 polluted days last year. Roadside emissions and marine traffic were the biggest factors.

Pollution from the Pearl River Delta, from sources like power plants, was responsible for 36 per cent of the days. Pollution on the remaining 41 days was low.

A study by the Environmental Protection Department released in 2002 found that more than 80 per cent of polluting emissions came from the region.

University scientists used air quality monitors in Hong Kong and the Pearl River Delta, wind data from the Observatory and satellite pictures to confirm the sources of air pollution.

They also found that local sources played the biggest role in pollution from April to August, whereas regional sources affected air quality mainly in winter, from November to March.

Alexis Lau Kai-hon, an atmospheric scientist at the university, said: 'We are not saying the government is wrong, but they are not giving us the entire picture.'

He said the government measured emissions in terms of the total amount of air pollutants, while he used a time-based approach.

'Our study shows that if we can clean up the 53 per cent of days, we can have more days when we can see blue sky,' he said.

Civic Exchange chief executive officer Christine Loh Kung-wai said reducing emissions in Hong Kong would clearly have a positive impact on local air quality.

She urged the government to tighten air quality objectives to meet standards suggested by the World Health Organisation and to formulate a comprehensive energy policy as soon as possible.

Anthony Hedley, chair professor of the University of Hong Kong's department of community medicine, said tightening air quality objectives would prevent 1,600 deaths a year and save HK$2 billion.

A spokeswoman for the Environmental Protection Department said the government was determined to combat air pollution.

She said the latest findings, showing pollution was higher in winter, were consistent with the department's study.

Earlier this month, 12 green groups urged candidates in the chief executive election to be more aggressive in tackling worsening air pollution, suggesting a climate change and energy bureau be set up to respond to environmental issues.